A New Testament Exodus Mirroring the OT Exodus


My friend, Danny Foster, started a blog two months ago today, and he titles it “Ultimate Reality = Everlasting Kingdom.” Today I’d like to feature his most recent post, written on January 30th. He makes an interesting comparison between the 40 year exodus during Moses’ generation, and what he sees as a 40 year exodus in the earliest years of the New Testament church. His post has been edited slightly, but not for content:

While Old Testament Israel’s exodus was from the bondage of Egypt, the New Testament Israel’s exodus was from the bondage of the Old Covenant Law. The most recognizable passage that depicts this “new exodus” is found in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, where Paul wrote:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food,  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.  Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction,on whom the end of the ages has come.”

Paul’s contextual foundation for this final statement was the Old Testament exodus from Egyptian bondage. He wrote that……

1) They passed through the sea (verse 1).
2) They ate manna and drank from the rock (verses 3-4).
3) They wandered in the wilderness (verse 5).
4) They became idolaters (verse 7).
5) They tried the Lord and were destroyed by serpents (verse 9).

This list shows us that just like the “type and shadow” of the Old Testament and their deliverence from bondage, the New Testament saints were undergoing the same exodus. The only difference was that Paul’s generation was the reality to which the Old Testament examples pointed.

The exodus for those New Testament saints started at the Cross (30 AD) and ended at the Parousia (70 AD), exactly a 40 year period just as with the wilderness wandering of the Old Testament exodus.

The end of the age came upon that generation, and we are now in the everlasting age (Ephesians 3:21).

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A New Testament Pattern: A Wedding Follows Jerusalem’s Demise


In the last two posts (here and here), we wrapped up our study of Matthew 24, covering verses 35-51. This followed a 4-part parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32 (seen here, here, here, and here).

As Matthew 24 transitions into Matthew 25, we observe something that reflects a pattern seen elsewhere in the New Testament. That is, Matthew 24-25 is one of three New Testament passages where the destructive judgment upon Jerusalem gives way to something far more redemptive and glorious, the wedding of Christ to His bride.

Matthew 24-25

As discussed in the six posts devoted to the Olivet Discourse (cited above), Jesus has just foretold the destruction of the temple, and His coming in judgment and in His kingdom, all of which was fulfilled within His own generation. Consider what He says next: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1). He then goes on to describe how those who were equipped with plenty of oil were able to go into the marriage feast with the bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-13), a most blessed opportunity. This is already the second time we’ve seen this pattern in the book of Matthew.

Matthew 22

Recall Matthew 22 and the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22:1-14). In this parable, a king put on a wedding feast for his son, and the king’s servants were sent out to tell “those who were invited” (verse 2) that everything had been prepared. This represented God preparing a feast for His Son, Jesus, and the gospel first being spread among the Jewish people (e.g. Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 15:24, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, Acts 3:26, Acts 13:46, Romans 1:16).

Many who were invited repeatedly ignored the invitation, and others even mistreated and killed the king’s servants who had invited them (verse 6). As a result:

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find’” (verses 7-9).

This, of course, was a foretelling of what would happen, and what did happen, to Jerusalem in 70 AD when it was burned by God’s instrument of judgment, the Romans.

The invitation then goes out to others (Gentiles as well as Jews; vss. 9-10), which I believe can be seen, for example, in the bold proclamation made by Paul and Barnabas in the city of Antioch:

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:44-47).

Only those with proper wedding garments were allowed to remain at the wedding feast (vss. 10-14). In Jesus’ analogy before His first century audience, the speechless man (verse 12) perhaps represents the Jew who believed that his ethnic descent from Abraham earned him an automatic place in the kingdom of God. The proper wedding garment, however, meant being clothed in the righteousness of Christ (see Revelation 19:8). Those who lacked these garments remained in outer darkness and were not part of the chosen people of God (vss. 13-14; see also Matthew 8:11-12; Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Matt. 21:43-45).

Revelation 19

Outside of Matthew, this pattern of judgment before bridal bliss is also repeated. Babylon the Great is shown in Revelation 16-18 to be an adulterous city that was responsible for the shedding of the blood of prophets, apostles, and saints (see especially Rev. 16:4-6, 17:6, 18:20, and 18:24). This detail alone answers so clearly to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:29-38 that there is no further need to speculate on the identity of Babylon the Great. In Matthew 23, He not only tells who would be held responsible for the martyrdom of His people, but also when they would be held responsible:

Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees… I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generationO Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together… See, your house is left to you desolate.”

To make Babylon’s identity even more clear, though, John’s readers are told in Revelation 11 exactly what city he speaks of later in the book. In Rev. 11:8 we first come across the expression, “the great city,” which is later used seven more times in chapters 16-18 (Rev. 16:19, 17:18; 18:9, 16, 17, 19, 21) in reference to Babylon the Great. Speaking of God’s “two witnesses” (Rev. 11:3), John was told that their dead bodies would lie “in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” In what city was Jesus crucified? Of course, we know that it was Jerusalem.

So, with these things established, John’s readers are told four times that “the great city,” identified as Jerusalem, was to be burned with fire (Rev. 17:16, 18:8-9, 18:17, and 19:3). This literally happened in 70 AD, as Josephus and other eyewitnesses affirm. As the book of Matthew has already demonstrated, the story doesn’t end there. A great multitude in heaven cries out:

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just; for He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants… Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (Rev. 19:1-3).

The great multitude then goes on to say:

Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:6-7).

Mirroring the words of Jesus in Matthew 22 and 25, an angel proclaims, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

This perhaps comes into greater focus when we recall that the apostle Paul said things like this to his first century readers:

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (Romans 7:4)

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:2)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:25-32)

So, in summary, we see that a wedding immediately follows the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 22:7-8, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation 19:1-10. This wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb, is not awaiting fulfillment. It commenced in the first century. Let us rejoice, for God’s people are still called to partake of this feast even now!

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Thoughts Are Welcome

What are your thoughts on what Scripture says concerning the marriage of Christ to the Church?

For years, I was taught that the Church has not yet entered into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and that we remain betrothed (i.e. engaged) to Christ (see II Cor. 11:2, quoted above). This will be the case, I was taught, until He returns, at which time the marriage will take place. If this were true, what would be the significance/implications of a betrothal period lasting for 2000 years or more?

I now believe that Scripture shows that this betrothal period lasted for about one generation, and that the marriage and feast began at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the dissolution of the Old Covenant system in the first century. Since I believe this is true, I’m asking myself what is the significance of the betrothal period lasting for just that one generation?

I’m thinking aloud, but I’m guessing that Romans 7:4 (quoted above) holds a clue to this. Paul told his readers that they became dead to the law for a purpose. It was so that they could be married to Jesus who had been raised from the dead. Why was there a connection between the Church turning its back on the law, and looking forward to being married to Christ?

In our study of Matthew 24:35, we looked into Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17-18 that nothing would pass from the Law until heaven and earth disappeared. We saw that, viewing Scripture as a whole, “heaven and earth” is used as covenant language here. The Old Covenant was made obsolete at the cross, but a few decades later when Hebrews was written it was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was accomplished when temple-based, Old Covenant Judaism met its demise in 70 AD. On the heels of the manifest passing of the Law, then (in fulfillment of Matthew 5:17-18), the Church was married to Christ. This took place as predicted in Matthew 22:7-8, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation 19:1-10; and as alluded to in Romans 7:4, II Corinthians 11:2, and Ephesians 5:25-32.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?

Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 2 of 2)


Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 2 of 2)

This post is a continued addendum to the 4-part Olivet Discourse series posted between April and August 2011. That series featured a parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32. It can be seen here, here, here, and here.

In the last post (Part 1 of our study of Matthew 24:35-51), we extensively looked at Matthew 24:35, showing that when Jesus said heaven and earth would pass away, He was using covenant language already used elsewhere in Scripture. In doing so, He spoke of the soon-to-come passing of the Old Covenant world. That post also included an examination of Luke 21:34-36.

In this post we will finish covering the last 17 verses of Matthew 24 (verses 35-51), the text of which is below. The first two verses in this text are also found as direct parallels in the gospel accounts of Mark and Luke (highlighted in red), and several other verses seem to allude to similar statements in Mark and Luke (these are highlighted in blue):

MATTHEW 24:35-51

Parallels and Similarities in Mark 13 and Luke 21

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not kno51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

1. Direct Parallels

Verse 35 –> Mark 13:31,  Luke 21:33

Verse 36 –> Mark 13:32

2. Similarities

Verses 42-44, 48-50 –> Mark 13:33-37, Luke 21:36

Verse 36: Jesus’ disciples are now told that only the Father knew “that day and hour.” According to the context, Jesus Himself, at that time, did not know the day and hour of [1] the passing of “heaven and earth” (verse 35), and [2] the judgment upon Jerusalem which He had just predicted (verses 1-34). Again, the passing of Jerusalem, and the passing of heaven and earth, were spoken of as one climactic event. The generation in which these things would happen was known and revealed—i.e. it was to be His own generation (verse 34). However, the exact day was not known when Jesus spoke these words in about 30 AD. James Stuart Russell, writing in 1878, made the following point:

To have specified the day and the hour, to have said, ‘In the seven and thirtieth year*, in the sixth month and the eighth day of the month, the city shall be taken and the temple burnt with fire,’ would not only have been inconsistent with the manner of prophecy, but would have taken away one of the strongest inducements to constant watchfulness and prayer—the uncertainty of the precise time (The Parousia, p. 90).

*(Russell apparently supposes that Jesus spoke these words in 33 AD, that is, 37 years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.)

Verses 37-39: Jesus compares the time of His coming to the time when Noah built an ark in preparation for a great flood. That story is recorded in Genesis 6-7. During those days of preparation, those who would be swept away spent their days eating, drinking, marrying, and carrying on as normal, as if there was no tragic event just around the corner. Only righteous Noah and his family prepared in faith. It would be the same for Jesus’ own generation, He said. The implication was that His followers would prepare in faith for the perilous events that Jesus had predicted, but those outside of God’s family would not do so.

One early church father indicated that Christ’s followers did indeed behave differently leading up to the days of Jesus’ coming in judgment and in His kingdom. Athanasius (296-372 AD) once said:

“And when [Jesus] appeared in the end of the world [age], He also gave this commandment, saying…, ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation…then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains…’ [Matthew 24:15-16]. Knowing these things, the saints regulated their conduct accordingly.

I understand Athanasius to mean that the early believers lived very simply, in order to be prepared for that time when they would need to suddenly vacate Jerusalem. That’s why we read in the book of Acts that the believers in Jerusalem “had all things in common,” they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45), and “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own” (Acts 4:32).

They took seriously Jesus’ words that His doomsday predictions for Jerusalem and Judea would be fulfilled in His own generation (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). They didn’t know the day or the hour of these events (Matthew 24:36), but they did know the generation when it would all take place, and they knew it was their own. As it was for Noah and his family, this knowledge affected their behavior.

History then tells us that Roman armies did come and surround Jerusalem in 67 AD (see also Luke 21:20-24), and at that time the believers remembered what Jesus had said. Remigius (437-533 AD) explains:

“[For] on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.”

The city of Pella was like Noah’s ark to these 1st century believers.

Verses 40-41: At the time of His coming, Jesus said, some would be “taken” and others would be “left.” Jesus used the illustrations of two men in a field, and two women grinding with a hand mill, to demonstrate this point. This has been interpreted in various ways. Some believe, as I do, that this prophecy was fulfilled during the Roman-Jewish War of 66-73 AD, while many teach and believe that this prophecy remains to be fulfilled.

In this section, though, we will focus more on another variant among these interpretations. Some believe that to be “taken” was to be a blessed event, while those who were “left” would face great horror. This was the opinion of John Wesley (1703-1791), who said in his commentary on verse 40, “One is taken – Into God’s immediate protection: and one is left – To share the common calamities.”

Others believe that to be “left” was instead to be desired, while those who were “taken” were the unfortunate ones. This was the opinion of Albert Barnes (1834), who said, “The word ‘taken’ may mean either to be taken away from the danger – that is, rescued, as Lot was (Luke 17:28-29), or to be taken away ‘by death.’ Probably the latter is the meaning.” Likewise, John Gill (1746-63) said, “the one shall be taken; …by the eagles, the Roman army, and either killed or carried captive by them: and the other left; …by the Romans, being by some remarkable providence, or another, delivered out of their hands.”

Here are some reasons which might be given by proponents of both views (whether they see this as a past or a future event):

WHY IT’S GOOD TO BE “TAKEN”

WHY IT’S GOOD TO BE “LEFT”

The picture of being “taken” mirrors the picture of being gathered “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Jesus said this would happen to the elect. In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:36-43), Jesus said that the angels would first gather (take) the weeds and burn them with fire. As Jesus said, “so will it be at the close of the age.” That age ended in Jesus’ own generation, as He predicted (Matthew 24:3, 34).
This text speaks of “the Rapture,” a time when living believers will be literally caught up in the sky in an instant to be with Jesus. Therefore, being “taken” is a good thing. A study of the history of the Roman-Jewish War reveals that from 67-70 AD the Roman armies swept through Judea and Galilee massacring large populations. In this way, they were “taken” by the Romans. Finally, Rome laid siege on Jerusalem for five months and burned that city with fire.
Noah is pictured as entering the ark first (Matthew 24:38). This corresponds to being “taken.” Only then were the wicked, the ones “left” outside of the ark, swept away (verse 39). The reference to being “taken,” which occurs twice in Matthew 24:40-41, seems to correspond with being “swept away” (verse 39), the description used for those who perished in the flood in Noah’s day. In the case of Noah, those who were left behind (i.e. spared by taking refuge in the ark) were the fortunate ones, but those who were taken/swept away (i.e. destroyed) were not.
Of the 10 virgins spoken of in Matthew 25:1-13, the five wise virgins were “taken” in to be with the bridegroom, but the five foolish virgins were “left” out and the door was not opened to them. In another example, Isaiah 6:11-12 speaks of cities lying “waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land a desolate waste,” and the Lord removing people far away (which was an act of judgment upon those people). The verses preceding these were quoted by Jesus concerning His own generation: “’Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive…’” (Isaiah 6:9-10, quoted in Matthew 13:10-17).

The reader may decide which option is more convincing. The challenge is that we are not told explicitly in this text who “takes” the one, and who “leaves” the other. Other clues to this mystery, however, might come from the parallel text given in Luke’s account (Luke 17:28-37):

It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

In Luke’s account, Jesus connected the “taking” and “leaving” with His command that His people should flee without delay. This was specific to people living in Judea. We know that this flight was in conjunction with Jerusalem being surrounded by Roman armies (see Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-18, Luke 21:20-23, and Part 3 of our Olivet Discourse series). Those who believe, then, that being “taken” instead of “left” speaks of a future, worldwide Rapture should take note that it actually has to do with a promised invasion of Judea, one that history tells us already took place in the same manner (and within the same timeframe) that Jesus said it would.

This text also pokes another hole in the position of the partial-preterist who says that Matthew 24:1-34 is fulfilled, but Matthew 24:35-51 remains unfulfilled. For when does Jesus say that “one will be taken and the other left”? He said it would be “on that night.” What night was He speaking of? It was clearly the same night when His followers would need to flee with great haste from Jerusalem. That flight was foretold in Matthew 24:15-20, within the portion of Matthew 24 that partial-preterists affirm has been fulfilled. Luke 17 ties these events together in such a way that no amount of time can separate them, let alone 2000 years.

According to Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible (KJV version), the Greek word which is translated as “taken” is “paralambano.” It comes from two root words: [1] “para,” meaning near/beside/at the vicinity of/on account of, and [2] “lambano,” meaning to take/to get hold of/have offered to one/to seize or remove. The suggested meanings of “paralambano” are to receive near/to assume an office/receive/take (unto, with). This word is used 16 times in the book of Matthew. These entries are listed below so that the reader can see how this word is used in other contexts outside of Matthew 24:40-41.

[1] “…fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife…” (Matthew 1:20)

[2] “Then Joseph…took unto him his wife…” (Matt. 1:24)

[3] “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt…” (Matt. 2:13)

[4] “When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night…” (Matt. 2:14)

[5] [6] —same usage as in the two previous examples (Matt. 2:20, 21)

[7] “Then the devil taketh Him (Jesus) up into the holy city…” (Matt. 4:5)

[8] “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain…” (Matt. 4:8)

[9] “Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits…” (Matt. 12:45)

[10] “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John…” (Matt. 17:1)

[11] “But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more [witnesses]…” (Matt. 18:6)

[12] “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the 12 disciples apart in the way…” (Matt. 20:1)

[13] [14] “…the one shall be taken, and the other left…” (Matt. 24:40, 41)

[15] “And He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee…” (Matt. 26:37)

[16] “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall…” (Matt. 27:27)

The Greek word which is translated as “left” in Matthew 24:40-41 is “aphiemi,” meaning to send (forth)/cry/forgive/forsake/lay aside/leave/let (alone, be, go, have)/omit/put (send) away/remit, suffer, yield up. According to the Blue Letter Bible Lexicon, this Greek word appears in Matthew a total of 40 times, being translated in various ways. It’s only translated as “left,” however, a total of 10 times in the book of Matthew:

[1] “And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:20)

[2] “And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” (Matt. 4:22)

[3] “And He touched her hand, and the fever left her…” (Matt. 8:15)

[4] “When they had heard these words, they marveled and left Him…” (Matt. 22:22)

[5] “…the first…[died and] left his wife unto his brother.” (Matt. 22:25)

[6] “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38)

[7] “…There shall not be left here one stone upon another…” (Matt. 24:2)

[8] [9] “…the one shall be taken, and the other left…” (Matt. 24:40, 41)

[10] “And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time…” (Matt. 26:44)

In Luke’s account we see another connection that we don’t see in Matthew’s account. When Jesus says “one will be taken and the other left,” the disciples ask, “Where, Lord?” His response is striking: “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” It’s not made explicitly clear whether His answer is in regard to those who are “taken,” or in regard to those who are “left.” The options are:

[1] The disciples asked where the people would be taken.

[2] The disciples asked where the people would be left.

Does the surrounding text answer either one of these questions? Yes, it does. In the examples Jesus gives, those who are “left” are still (1) in bed (2) at a grain mill (3) in a field. Therefore, the disciples had been told, and already knew, the whereabouts of those who were to be “left.” It then could make more sense that they wanted to know the destiny of those who were to be “taken.” It would then be this question which Jesus answers when He speaks of vultures gathering around dead bodies. If this is the case, then it was not a good thing to be taken at the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy, for those who were taken became a meal for the vultures.

There is also the possibility, however, that Jesus is not answering a question about what happens to those who are taken, but rather gives a clue as to what will happen to those left behind. From an already fulfilled-perspective, there would be a way to view this as the meaning behind Jesus’ words. As pointed out earlier, we have historical records showing that Jesus’ followers did indeed flee from Judea and Jerusalem and take refuge in Pella, while those who remained behind were ravaged by the Romans. If it was a good thing to be “taken” at the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy, it can be seen in Christ’s followers being “taken,” i.e. brought by God’s providence, to Pella where they dwelt safely during this very tumultuous time.

In the end, it’s up to the reader to decide which proposal holds more validity.

Verses 42-44: Jesus’ followers were urged to stay awake in anticipation of His coming. Take note again that they, living in the first century, were to hold this expectation that He would come in their lifetime (compare with Matthew 16:27-28). Some indeed lived until that time; others were martyred in advance.

They had already been warned about false prophets who were soon to come, of false signs and wonders, of betrayal, of lawlessness, of the love of many growing cold, of fearful signs, etc. As we saw earlier in the Olivet Discourse series, these warnings certainly became a reality in the years following Jesus’ ascension. We also know that apostate Judaizers plagued the church in the decades that were to come, something that we see Paul addressing often in his epistles. This is evidence, then, that many did not stay awake. Jesus said that the hour (precise time) of His coming would not be according to expectations, and therefore staying awake was of great importance.

Verses 45-51: Jesus gives an analogy contrasting a faithful and wise servant with a wicked servant. The faithful servant would be given joyful responsibilities at the time of the master’s coming. On the other hand, the wicked servant would be unpleasantly surprised at the coming of his master, and would experience agonizing punishment. It’s interesting to note that Jesus refers to the servant who would say, “my master is delaying his coming,” as evil. Yet many believers today are fond of using the expression, “if the Lord tarries.”

The reference to weeping and gnashing of teeth goes back to Matthew 8:10-12, where Jesus said that many outsiders would dine in the kingdom of heaven with the prophets and patriarchs of old, but many “sons of the kingdom” (Jews) would find themselves in outer darkness with “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This, of course, would have been a shocking statement to many Jews who believed, that by virtue of their ethnicity, they had an automatic place in God’s economy. Weeping and gnashing of teeth was also to be the destiny of the tares thrown into the fire at the end of the age (Matthew 13:41-42).

Matthew 24:35-51 (Part 1 of 2)


Post Outline

1. A Study of Matthew 24:35
2. A Study of Luke 21:34-36

This post is a continuation of the 4-part Olivet Discourse series posted between April and August 2011 (here, here, here, and here). That series featured a parallel study of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, and Luke 21:5-32. At this point in the Olivet Discourse, Matthew gives us an extended version of this discourse, 63 more verses actually, in Matt. 24:35-51 and Matt. 25:1-46. Mark and Luke, on the other hand, wrap up Jesus’ message in just a few verses. In Mark’s case, there are seven (7) more verses (Mark 13:31-37), and in Luke’s case there are only four (4) more verses (Luke 21:33-36).

These next two posts will cover the last 17 verses of Matthew 24 (verses 35-51), the text of which is below. The first two verses in this text are also found as direct parallels in the gospel accounts of Mark and Luke (highlighted in red), and several other verses seem to allude to similar statements in Mark and Luke (these are highlighted in blue):

MATTHEW 24:35-51

Parallels and Similarities in Mark 13 and Luke 21

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

1. Direct Parallels

Verse 35 –> Mark 13:31,  Luke 21:33

Verse 36 –> Mark 13:32

2. Similarities

Verses 42-44, 48-50 –> Mark 13:33-37, Luke 21:36


Verse 35: In the last portion of the Olivet Discourse (covering Matthew 24:29-34/Mark 13:24-30/Luke 21:25-32), we examined Jesus’ declaration that “all these things” (the fall of the temple, and all that would precede that event) must take place before His own generation would pass away. Following that statement, He immediately adds that “heaven and earth” would also pass away. This was in contrast to “His Word,” which would never pass away. This statement also appears in Mark’s and Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33).

Are there grounds for believing that Jesus was saying that heaven and earth would pass away along with His own generation? I believe there are. Certainly, there is no clear indication that Jesus suddenly goes here from speaking about first century events (verses 1-34) to speaking (in verse 35 and beyond) of events that are future to us 2000 years later. This idea has been proposed by some, but the weight of the gospel accounts in their entirety do not allow for this. If we examine, for example, Luke 17:22-37, we will see that four portions of this passage are directly parallel to content found within Matthew 24:1-34, and two separate portions are directly parallel to content found within Matthew 24:35-51.

Portions of Luke 17:20-37 parallel to content in Matthew 24:1-34

Portions of Luke 17:20-37 parallel to content in Matthew 24:35-51

Parallel to Matthew 24:23

Luke 17:23And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.

Parallel to Matthew 24:27

Luke 17:24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.

Parallel to Matthew 24:17-18

Luke 17:31On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.

Parallel to Matthew 24:28

Luke 17:37And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

 

 

 

 

Parallel to Matthew 24:37-39

Luke 17:26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Parallel to Matthew 24:41

Luke 17:35There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.

So we see that in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus blends these six references (four of which are present in Matthew 24:1-34, and two of which are present in Matthew 24:35-51) together, without any distinctions related to time. Therefore, the one who acknowledges that everything Jesus said in Matthew 24:1-34 is tied to His own first century generation, but insists that what He said in Matthew 24:35 and beyond is not yet fulfilled, is very much inconsistent. Otherwise, in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus arbitrarily switched back and forth between speaking of first century events and events in the 21st century (or beyond).

What would Jesus have meant then by saying that heaven and earth would pass away in His own generation? We have repeatedly seen in our study of the Olivet Discourse that the prophetic language of the Old Testament provides quite a backdrop to what Jesus says in this discourse. The same is true for the expression “heaven and earth.” It’s covenant language. This is perhaps most evident in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was given a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the very first verse (1:1). The very first words he uttered were these: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:2). This is not unique to Isaiah, for heaven and earth were repeatedly called as witnesses against Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:18-19, 31:28, 32:1; Jeremiah 2:12, 6:19; Micah 6:2). In Isaiah 51, speaking to the people of Israel, God says:

I, I am He who comforts you; who are you that you…have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…? …And I have put My words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are My people (verses 12-16).

The establishment of the heavens and the earth is thus linked directly to the establishment of Israel as God’s people at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6). Psalm 68:7-8 reiterates that the earth and the heavens were greatly affected when “God, the One of Sinai” marched through the wilderness before His people, as does Judges 5:4-5. Jeremiah also spoke of Jerusalem’s pending destruction (in 586 BC) in a way that might seem as if he was talking about planet earth and the galaxies, if it weren’t for the context:

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war… I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light… For thus says the Lord, ‘The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark…’” (Jeremiah 4:19, 23, 27).

On a more pleasant note, Isaiah also prophesied of “new heavens and a new earth,” and the creation of Jerusalem as a joy (Isaiah 65:17-19). That this is covenantal language, and not language referring to the material/physical heavens and earth, can be seen in the fact that the new heavens and new earth were to be marked by sin and death (verse 20), building and planting (verses 21-22), and the reproduction of children (verse 23). When I was younger, I was taught that the new heavens and earth would be set up following a future Second Coming of Christ and a 1000 year “millennial reign” based out of Jerusalem, at which time sin and death would completely cease to exist.

Isaiah’s description of the new heavens and earth, however, does not allow for this. Instead, his description speaks of present realities, the earthly existence being experienced by anyone reading this. It also mirrors what we see in the New Testament. Paul told the Ephesians that God’s people are called to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He likewise told the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, a new temple/tabernacle had come (e.g. I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Cor. 6:19, II Cor. 6:16, Ephesians 2:21, Revelation 3:12), and the old temple/tabernacle had to go. During the one generation following the cross, all of the rituals attached to the temple in Jerusalem were worthless. By the end of that generation, that temple and those worthless rituals were gone.

Obituary of the Old Covenant

SOURCE

We would also do well to remember that Jesus had already made a very significant statement about the disappearance of (the old) heaven and earth in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Is the Law 100% intact even now in the year 2012, and are we thus still under the old heavens and earth? Or did Jesus accomplish everything and fulfill the Law, so that we are now under the covenantal framework of the new heavens and earth? Matthew 5:17-18 is an all-or-nothing statement. If “heaven and earth” have not yet disappeared, neither then has even one trace of the Law of Moses.

The “heaven and earth” spoken of by Jesus here are certainly connected to the temple worship and law keeping of the Jewish world. We know that Jerusalem, the temple, and the Old Covenant system attached to it passed away in a fiery blaze in 70 AD. Jesus, of course, predicted this (in Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16-17; Rev. 18:8-9, 17-18).

II Peter 3:7-13 also speaks of the heavens and earth of that time being “stored up for fire” (verse 7) and ready to “pass away with a roar” and be “burned up and dissolved” (verse 10), giving way to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). As Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675) wrote in his Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 3, p. 452),

“Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26, Gal. 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing of the dispensation of Moses.”

Indeed, Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20 make use of the same word translated as “elements” in II Peter 3:10. It’s clear that Paul spoke there, not of the cosmos, but of what was contained in the Law:

[1] “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10).

[2] “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” (Colossians 2:20-22).

In a 1721 sermon, the Puritan preacher John Owen said,

I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state… [A]nd then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.”

Jonathan Edwards (in 1739) said this in his work, “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath, Vol. 2”:

The Scriptures further teach us to call the gospel-restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth… The gospel state is everywhere spoken of as a renewed state of things, wherein old things are passed away, and all things become new… And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation.

C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon also had the same understanding. In a sermon delivered in 1865 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vo. XXXVII, p. 354), he said:

Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.

Here also is a very intriguing quote from the church father, Eusebius (265-340 AD), from one of his writings known as “the Theophania”:

All authorities concur in the declaration that “when all these things should have been done”, ‘The End’ should come: that “the mystery of God should be finished as he had declared to His servants the prophets“: it should be completed: time should now be no more: the End of all things (so foretold) should be at hand, and be fully brought to pass: in these days should be fulfilled all that had been spoken of Christ (and of His church) by the prophets: or, in other words, when the gospel should have been preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and the power of the Holy People be scattered (abroad), then should the End come, then should all these things be finished. I need now only say, all these things have been done: the old and elementary system passed away with a great noise; all these predicted empires have actually fallen, and the new kingdom, the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem–all of which were to descend from God, to be formed by His power, have been realised on earth; all these things have been done in the sight of all the nations; God’s holy arm has been made bare in their sight: His judgments have prevailed, and they remain for an everlasting testimony to the whole world. His kingdom has come, as it was foretold it should, and His will has, so far, been done; His purposes have been finished; and, from that day to the extreme end of time, it will be the duty, as indeed it will be the great privilege of the Church, to gather into its bosom the Jew, the Greek, the Scythian, the Barbarian, bond and free; and to do this as the Apostles did in their days–in obedience, faith and hope.

A LOOK AT LUKE 21:34-36

Before going on to the rest of Matthew 24, some details from Luke 21:34-36 are also very much worth noting. This passage follows His two-fold declaration in verses 32-33 that [1] His own generation and [2] heaven and earth would pass away. He then says,

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

In verse 34, Jesus refers to “that day.” Taking this reference in context, what day would He be referring to? It should be clear that He was referring [1] to the passing of His generation after all that He had prophesied would take place and [2] to the passing away of heaven and earth. This command to “watch yourselves” was given to His followers living in the first century.

In verse 35, Jesus says “that day” will come “upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”  On the Biblos Online Parallel Bible website (www.bible.cc), there are 18 parallel translations listed for this verse. All of them render the final phrase of this verse as “the whole earth,” except for Young’s Literal Translation, which renders it as “all the land.” Indeed, the Greek word used here, “ge,” can be rendered as “land” in many cases where it is used, and can refer specifically to the Promised Land (i.e. Israel). In various commentaries on Luke 21:35, Albert Barnes (1834) and Adam Clarke (1831) agreed that these troubles were to come upon Judea, and John Gill (1746-1763) said that Jerusalem, Galilee, and Judea suffered the calamities that Jesus predicted.

This certainly makes sense here, as we have already seen in Luke 21:23 that Jesus says those days would be full of great distress for “this people” and for “the earth” (or “the land”), and this is very clearly equated with “those who are in Judea” (Luke 21:21). The same Greek word, “ge,” is also used in verse 23, and there it is rendered as “land” instead of as “earth” 17 out of 18 times in the Biblos entry for that verse.

The expression “those who dwell on the earth” (or similar forms of this expression) can also be seen often in the book of Revelation, and a solid case can be made that it refers, not to the globe, but to 1st century apostate Israel. See the 3-part series I have written on this phenomenon: here, here, and here.

Lastly, in Luke 21:36, we see that Jesus makes reference to “all these things that are going to take place.” In verses 34-36 He does not detail any number of things that are going to take place. We must conclude, then, that He is referring to what He has already described in verses 5-32 (see verses 7, 9, 12, 22, 26, 31, and 32 for similar references). This is further evidence that Jesus does not, as some have suggested, speak of 1st century events in certain parts of this chapter and speak of yet unfulfilled events in other parts. For He declares in verse 32 that all these things must take place before His own generation passes away. Furthermore, in verses 8 and following He details the signs which must take place before the temple was to be completely destroyed (see verses 6-7), an event that we know took place in 70 AD.

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In the following post, we will conclude our study of Matthew 24 by examining the remaining 16 verses (Matthew 24:36-51).

A Good Word By David Wilkerson On Enduring Faith


David Wilkerson was the founder of Teen Challenge, author of multiple books including “The Cross and the Switchblade,” and the pastor of Times Square Church in New York City. He passed away almost 10 months ago in a car accident while traveling in Texas, leaving behind an admirable legacy of decades of contribution to the kingdom of God. I don’t agree with every one of his teachings and prophecies, but there is much in the way of his teachings and ministry (especially to outcasts, gang members, etc.) that I deeply appreciate and that has had an impact on me. He often wrote and spoke with great passion and a deep care for those whom God had entrusted to him to lead and influence.

One of his sermons, titled “The Limitations of the Miraculous,” was re-posted on the World Challenge website on January 17, 2012 (SOURCE). What he said is very thought-provoking to me, and contains much truth. I believe it’s worth re-posting here as well. I hope that other readers will also be challenged by this message on having faith that endures and perseveres:

Nobody had ever seen as many supernatural works as Israel. God provided miracle after miracle for them—and yet each work left the people as faithless and unbelieving as before! You would think that the ten plagues on Egypt would have produced faith in the Israelites. When Egypt was afflicted with flies, none were found in Israel’s camp. When Egypt fell under total darkness, there was no darkness in Israel. Yet none of these plagues produced faith of any kind!

Even after God opened the Red Sea, Israel’s faith lasted only three days. Scripture says: “They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, but rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea” (Psalm 106:7).

The psalmist is saying here: “They even doubted God at the Red Sea—the place where He performed His greatest miracle!”

We are so like Israel. We want God to speak a word, grant us a miraculous deliverance, quickly meet our needs, remove all our pain and suffering. In fact, you may be saying right now, “If God would just get me out of this mess—if He’d give me this one miracle—I would never doubt Him again!” Yet, what about all the miracles He has performed for you? They haven’t produced in you any faith to help you in your present trouble!

Two precious men of God from the Zulu tribe in Africa visited Times Square Church. An incredible revival was taking place among the eight million Zulus, and God was doing miraculous things among them.

Yet that is not what these men wanted to talk about. Rather, what impressed them most about the revival were the “overcomer Zulus”—those who stood for Christ, burning witchcraft books and witnessing boldly, even though they were being tested and tried severely. These people were once evil, with murderous spirits, and they were being transformed into the image of Jesus!

I believe the greatest sign or wonder to the world in these last days is not a person who has been raised from the dead. No, what truly makes an impact on the mind and spirit of the ungodly is the Christian who endures all trials, storms, pain and suffering with a confident faith. Such a believer emerges from his troubles stronger in character, stronger in faith, stronger in Christ.

My one exception to this sermon is that I don’t believe we are currently living in “the last days,” as I have written elsewhere. That point aside, though, I believe this is an excellent study. As the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 10:11, what happened to Israel is meant to be an example to God’s people living under the New Covenant. May we not be quick to forget what God has done for us, and easily fall victim to doubt, worry, fear, or stress. May we also allow any difficult circumstances in our lives to shape us, refine us as gold is purified in the fire (I Peter 1:6-7), and help to produce in us (constantly and increasingly) a faith in God that endures and perseveres. May the joy of the Lord be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) even when, in the natural, it doesn’t seem likely.

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

(Jesus, in John 16:33)